Interview by Carla Sanchez Taylor
On Demand / Digital Feb 9th
This is the jump off point for screenwriter, Jason Filiatrault’s cleverly woven narrative of a recently divorced suicidal man named Ben (played by Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch), seeking to redeem his belief in human connection. He meets Hanna, (Jess Weixler /Teeth, The Good Wife) and is instantly drawn to her refreshing approach to life. The twist changes this story from a seeming romantic comedy, to a series of deeper, existential moral conundrums.
Entanglement is a thoughtfully written and observant comedy that does not shy away from heavier topics of mortality, perception, and connectivity. I had a chance to speak to writer Jason Filiatrault about what inspired his narrative, and how he keeps his creativity in motion. – Carla Sanchez Taylor (RiPple PuDdle)
Carla: What was the metaphorical connection to the quantum theory of entanglement as it relates to your main character’s personal struggle?
Jason: I’ve always been into weird physics. The concept that particles are created together and inextricably linked is very strange in a Star Trek-y kind of way. But on a personal level, when we grow up with the idea of soul mates and our connection to family, it seems like a very easy concept to understand. For Ben, who’s lacked connection for most of his life, who has avoided it where possible and then had it ripped away when he did find it, the idea that there is an easy answer appeals to him. I think it’s appealing to a lot of people. It takes the work out of looking for a reason to like somebody or a to take this road versus that road. There’s also the other, less appealing side of the realistic aspect of this physical connection: that there is no free determination in those two particles. It implies that you’re kind of stuck with that connection.
Carla: How did you approach writing your female lead character (Hanna) in a relatable, yet original manner?
Jason: Her genesis was deconstructing the manic, pixie dream girl trope. The weird, quirky girl that is only in service to the male protagonist was a launching point for her character. How does she fit into those categories and then in what ways do we break her out? For me it was about making sure that she was all the things that Ben was repressing, and what I find other people, myself included, holding back on: like joy, curiosity, experimentation and forthrightness. Even just the notion of making a new friend seems daunting and exhausting to me. A lot of Hanna came out of wanting to express things that I wish I could.
The other side of it is, honestly, Jess Weixler. She’s a rock star of a performer. Jess took what was on the page and imbued it with actual life.
Carla: This story dealt with suicide, depression, anxiety; all of which are relatable, to varying degrees but heavy subjects nonetheless. How did you write this comedically, and achieve it without dismissive cynicism?
Jason: I’m more of a comedy writer than a dramatic writer. I wrote a lot more comedy in the original script than we ended up using in the film. I kind of knew that going in because of the topics we were discussing. Between the cast, our director Jason James and I, we decided where the comedy felt natural in relation to the scene. Realism and honesty, in these moments, are so much more important than a joke. There’s a lot of trimming back, which I’m grateful for because a bad joke stands out like nothing else. Nobody can take the blame for that but me.
Carla: What do you think keeps your creativity in an active state?
Jason: I allow myself to shift gears if I get in the mud on a project. If I do something very fantastic, I try to do something a little more grounded. I feel like I’m pouring every idea and bit of material that I have in my brain out and into the script. I don’t want to leave anything in the well. So when I’m done, I need time for that to refill. So you go out into the world and experience things and see different people, and try a new kind of restaurant. You let these experiences compile until there’s some sort of story that you can reach in and pull out of them. You need a bank of those. So taking time and switching to something that isn’t going to draw from the same well is the most useful thing to do because it allows for your brain to rest. I try to work on different things so that these registers are filling back up slowly. I think that’s how it works. I might also just be a little scatter-shocked and not really good at focusing.
Carla: Have you found there to be common themes that inform your work?
Jason: I would say yes but it’s always accidental. I think most artists find themselves drawn to a certain kind of work and they don’t usually know why. You can look back and say, ‘this is clearly what they’re obsessed with or the issues they have in their lives’. The concept of letting go, the idea that the past can hold you back, is a common theme that I see in my own work. It’s good shorthand for characters in that any time you want a character to grow, something that keeps them from doing so.
Carla: What do you find more terrifying in your career, hope or failure?
Jason: I definitely find failure more terrifying. As an only child, I was used to a great deal of praise and unconditional love. Hope…we kind of live on hope. It’s kind of like being afraid of air or water to an extent. I think we’re driven by hope, whether we know it or not, even if we think we’re hopeless. We all choose to do one more day. We choose to go to bed and wake up. That’s hope.
Entanglement premiers in select cities starting Feb 9
Also, check out one of Jason’s Twitter accounts (and my personal fan favorite) @SarcasticRover